DHS To Enforce ‘Public Charge’ Law, Exclude Migrants Who Rely on Welfare

John Moore/Getty Images

Homeland defense officials are reviving enforcement of a law that is intended to bar legal migrants who cannot earn a living in the United States.

The proposed regulation would implement the existing law, which bars legal immigrants from imposing a “public charge” on Americans. However, the plan is likely to be bitterly opposed by a loose alliance of business groups and by Democrats, both of whom gain when the federal government provides taxpayer aid to migrants, legal or illegal. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told Breitbart News:

The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S are self-sufficient. Any proposed changes would ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer funds seriously and adjudicates immigration benefit requests in accordance with the law.

The plan was mentioned in a 2017 work-plan released by DHS, but it was highlighted Wednesday by a report in the Washington Post. The report said:

Immigrants who accept almost any form of welfare or public benefit, even popular tax deductions, could be denied legal U.S. residency under a proposal awaiting approval by the Trump administration, which is seeking to reduce the number of foreigners living in the United States.

According to a draft of the proposal obtained by The Washington Post, immigration caseworkers would be required to consider a much broader range of factors when determining whether immigrants or their U.S.-citizen children are using public benefits or may be likely to do so.

Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a “public charge.” But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would broaden the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used earned-income tax credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other “non-cash public benefits.”

The proposal would also require Americans who sponsor migrants to post bonds of up to $10,000, which could be used to repay taxpayers for migrants’ use of federal aid.

The plan must be approved by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and then undergo a months-long public comment and regulatory process before it becomes a large regulation. If adopted, it will replace a 1999 regulation.

The draft says:

DHS seeks to advance self-sufficiency for aliens subject to public charge inadmissibility grounds through this rulemaking. DHS proposes to define the term public charge by regulation and to identify the types of public benefits that would be considered in the public charge inadmissibility determinations. DHS proposes to amend its regulations to interpret the minimum statutory factors for determining whether an alien is inadmissible because he or she is likely to become a public charge. This proposed rule would provide a standard for determining whether an alien who seeks admission into the United States as a nonimmigrant or an intending immigrant, or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge under section 212(a)(4) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4) …

The primary benefit of the proposed rule would be to help ensure that aliens who apply for admission to the United States, seek extension or change of status, or apply for adjustment of status are self-sufficient …

DHS seeks to ensure that aliens who are subject to the public charge inadmissibility ground and who are admitted to the United States or who adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident are self-sufficient …

(1) Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of United States immigration law since this country’s earliest immigration statutes. (2) It continues to be the immigration policy of the United States that— (A) Aliens within the Nation’s borders not depend on public resources to meet their needs, but rather rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, their sponsors, and private organizations; and (B) The availability of public benefits not constitute an incentive for immigration to the United States. 4 Generally, aliens in the United States who receive or use public benefits are dependent on Federal, State, and local governments for support. The receipt or use of public benefits by aliens subject to public charge inadmissibility is contrary to section 212(a)(4) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), and to policy statements made in 8 U.S.C.

Progressives oppose the measure and argue that immigrants use welfare at the same rate as Americans.

However, that argument admits that many migrants use welfare. But it also ignores that immigrants tend to be to be younger — and thus healthier — than average Americans — and that many are too ill-educated to prosper in a modern economy. Breitbart reported in 2016 that:

Immigrant-headed households use 41 percent more federal welfare benefits than their native-born counterparts, according to a new Center for Immigration Studies analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The average household headed by an immigrant (both legal and illegal) in 2012 consumed $6,234 federal in welfare benefits, while the average native-headed households consumed $4,431 in benefits, says the CIS report, which is based on data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Broken down by category, author Jason Richwine details how immigrant-headed households consume on average 33 percent more cash welfare (Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), 57 percent more food assistance (food stamps, the Women, Infants, and Children program, and school lunch), and 44 percent more Medicaid. Both groups, however, use housing assistance at similar levels.

Many immigrants — including illegal immigrants – work very hard and will give up welfare aid if it threatens the immigration process. However, the Democratic Party and its allies in aid and welfare groups stand to lose funding and influence if they cannot offer taxpayer welfare to migrants.

Immigration reformers welcomed the plan. “We shouldn’t be taking in anyone from abroad who can’t support himself & his family,” said a tweet from Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Progressives oppose the draft plan.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services “intends to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds, this calendar year,” said chief spokesman Jonathan Withington. He added:

Any draft documents circulating internally are considered pre-decisional and have not been approved for submission to the Office of Management and Budget … Upon publication in the Federal Register, USCIS encourages public comments on this proposed rule. No final decision will be made until the rulemaking process is complete. Per the rulemaking requirements, we are unable to discuss the contents of the proposed rule.



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.